US officially recognises Somalia's government

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton met Somalia's newly elected president in Washington on Thursday

The US has officially recognised Somalia's government in Mogadishu after more than 20 years.

The move could pave the way for US and international economic aid for the Horn of Africa nation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the news on Thursday at a meeting in Washington with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

He took office in 2012 after the first vote of its kind since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

"Today is a milestone, it is not the end of the journey, but it is an important milestone towards that end," Mrs Clinton said after talks with Mr Mohamud.

'Long, difficult period'

She added that the US wanted "an open, transparent dialogue about what more we can do to help the people of Somalia realise their own dream".

Mr Mohamud said the people of Somalia were grateful for America's "unwavering support" as the country emerged "from a very long, difficult period".

"We are working for a Somalia that is at peace with itself and with its neighbours, where its citizens can go about their daily lives in safety," he said.

The move recognised the new government's progress towards political stability and "breaking the back" of an al-Shabab insurgency, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said on Wednesday.

Al-Shabab, a group aligned to al-Qaeda, had seized control of southern and central parts of Somalia before Ethiopian, Kenyan and African Union peacekeeping troops undertook a counter-offensive, supported by the US, to restore order.

The US never formally cut diplomatic ties with Somalia.

But the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident, when 18 American servicemen were killed after militia fighters shot two US military helicopters out of the sky, marked the country's descent into anarchy.

Mr Mohamud's government was fostered by a UN-backed and regionally supported effort to end nearly two decades of fighting.

Mrs Clinton is not expected to announce new aid measures for Somalia, which already receives US assistance for drought, famine and refugee relief.

Mr Mohamud has also met World Bank and USAid officials on his trip to Washington.

The US does not currently have an embassy in Somalia, but officials indicated that was a possibility in the future.

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